The next generation of Australia’s national lotteries could be based on blockchain technology, the head of gaming giant Tabcorp has said as the firm joins a growing roster of blue-chip companies jumping on the blockchain bandwagon.

Development teams within Tabcorp’s Lotteries and Keno division – which manages the country’s nine national lotteries including TattsLotto and Oz Lotto – have already begun trialling the distributed-ledger technology, Managing Director and CEO David Attenborough said during a panel session at the recent ACS Reimagination Thought Leaders’ Summit conference.

The move is part of the company’s ongoing efforts at continuous improvement – which in recent years has seen it overhauling its core technology and bolstering a digital lotteries business that grew 73 per cent last year and generates twice as much revenue as its retail business.

“Most of our investment is incremental, and we have set up customer-led Agile teams to do customer-facing digital products, and to try to move the dial on an almost two-weekly basis,” Attenborough explained in highlighting the “bigger-horizon stuff” that Tabcorp keeps on its strategic radar.

“We are always watching and looking to be aware of disruptors that may come in,” he said. “You’ve got to be continually looking, and we’ve just got to get better and better.”

No longer just experimenting

While the transition to blockchain-based lotteries may be some time off, the technology’s prominence on the strategic radar of a company with $5.5b in annual revenues represents another notch in the belt of a technology that has moved quickly to shed its association with the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The distributed-ledger technology would provide a non-repudiable journal of lottery transactions, supporting Tabcorp’s core value of Integrity as it continues its push into digital products.

Other ambitious projects helped the technology gain significant momentum this year, evolving from niche experiments around Scotch fillet, almonds and medicinal cannabis into a driver for end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Early trials of the technology were largely experimental and pundits have warned that it will take some time for the technology to escape the ‘trough of disillusionment’, with the ACS’ recent Blockchain 2030 report noting eight key scenarios that will drive its adoption here.

Those scenarios are rapidly being explored as new offerings provide easier access to blockchain infrastructure.

Global chocolate giant Nestlé, for one, has recently leveraged Amazon Managed Blockchain to build Chain of Origin, a blockchain-based tool for tracking coffee provenance from the point where the bean is picked to the point where it’s spooned into the customer’s mug.

“Consumers want to know more in terms of where their product is coming from,” said Armin Nehzat, digital delivery head with Nestlé Oceania.

“The challenge for us is that we can go one level into the supply chain and talk to our brokers or our buyers, but it is very, very hard to see multiple layers in because it takes a long time for this information to become available.”

A blockchain explosion or implosion?

Amazon Managed Blockchain is one of numerous blockchain as a service (BaaS) offerings that are making blockchain-based supply chain tools, smart contracts, and decentralised applications much more accessible.

The technology’s slow burn within enterprises is spreading, with new adopters such as FlashFX deploying blockchain-based systems and business-critical organisations like the ASX talking up its promise as a next-generation trading system.

BaaS adoption will be one of ten key drivers for blockchain during 2020, data analytics firm DataFloq recently predicted while anticipating improvements in blockchain federation, interoperability, and applicability to large-scale management challenges around social-media content and the Internet of Things (IoT) – a “booming” use case that Gartner Vice President Avivah Litan recently said “is moving ahead at a much faster pace than expected.”

Fully 75 percent of IoT adopters have already adopted blockchain or will adopt it by the end of next year, that survey found, with “increased security and trust” named by nearly two-thirds of respondents as the key driver for the implementation.

Major consulting firms are also getting in on the action, with Accenture recently opening an Innovation Hub in Perth that will give businesses access to expertise in business process, blockchain, and other technologies.

KPMG last month launched a managed blockchain-based ‘track and trace’ platform that is being trialled by Queensland sugarcane peak body Canegrowers, food giant SunRice, and winemaker Mitchell Wines.

Blockchain will allow primary producers to demonstrate their sustainability credentials and return the benefits of investing in sustainable practices, KPMG said.

Yet the technology’s continued evolution creates its own issues for businesses: despite enterprises’ growing enthusiasm, Gartner noted, by 2021 nine out of ten current blockchain implementations will need to be replaced due to market fragmentation and obsolescence.

“Many CIOs overestimate the capabilities and short-term benefits of blockchain as a technology to help them achieve their business goals,” Gartner senior research director Adrian Lee said, “thus creating unrealistic expectations when assessing offerings from blockchain platform vendors and service providers.”